UNITED KINGDOM, LONDON – Researchers at Oxford University have revealed that those who have had mild COVID-19 but haven’t shown any other widespread ‘long Covid’ symptoms in daily life may experience impairment in memory and attention for six to nine months after getting infected.
After recovering from acute infection, participants of the latest study had tested positive for COVID-19 previously, but no symptoms of long-term COVID infection were found, or any other health concerns.
At the time of testing, they did not differ much from a control group that was uninfected on factors such as fatigue, forgetfulness, sleep patterns, or anxiety.
The participants were asked to perform a series of exercises that focused on activities essential for daily life, such as sustaining attention, planning, memory, and reasoning.
In conclusion, the scientists discovered that participants performed well at most tasks, but were significantly worse than normal at remembering personal memories for up to six months after recovery. For up to nine months, they also demonstrated a decline in their ability to maintain attention.
Dr. Sijia Zhao of the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford said, “What is surprising is that although our COVID-19 survivors did not feel any more symptomatic at the time of testing, they showed degraded attention and memory.”
Moreover, “Our findings reveal that people can experience some chronic cognitive consequences for months.”
In checking their colleagues’ findings, Stephen Burgess of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at Cambridge University pointed out that only a small number of people had been involved.
“However, despite this, differences between the COVID and NON-COVID groups in terms of several specific measures of cognitive ability looked at in this study were striking, particularly in terms of delayed memory tasks and ability to perform tasks accurately when fatigued,” he said.
Researchers have previously demonstrated that after an acute COVID-19 infection some people suffer from cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and fatigue, which are sometimes referred to as “long Covid” symptoms.
However, little is known about how a mild Covid-19 infection might affect cognitive function.